Saturday, February 16, 2013

Barcelona cannot be found on the internet

Barcelona, Spain

I came to Barcelona in the company of Carlos Ruiz Zafón, one of its native sons. More precisely, my in-flight reading was La Sombra del Viento, which opens in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a nonlinear literary necropolis where books that no longer have readers are preserved against the day when someone will bring them back from the dead. I love the author's insistence that "every book has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived it and dreamed with it." I devoured this superior modern Gothic novel when I found the American edition (The Shadow of the Wind) in the Crow bookstore in Burlington, Vermont. I returned to it, in the original language, in hopes of bringing my Spanish up to speed for a ramble among Barcelona's haunted and haunting landscapes in between leading workshops in Frankfurt and Utrecht.     
     Perhaps my literary selection helped to script my odd journey from the airport to the Eixample, the Gaudi-era district of Barcelona outside the Old City. My taxi driver was no novice. Elderly and formal, he carried himself stiffly, as if any slip from punctilio would scatter him to wind and shadows. He wore a triangular Velazquez beard, his speech was pure and courtly Castilian. I was not surprised when he denied all knowledge of my small hotel. I had printed out the details and read the address. My taxi driver declared that the street address I had printed from the hotel’s own website was a fiction. "There is no number 286 on the Carrer de Provença."
    He was not interested in the printout. He produced an ancient street guide, immensely fat and brightly colored, with loose pages that threatened to blow out the windows as we drove up the Rambla de Catalunya. "See," he pointed a pontifical finger. "There is no number 286 on that street." I thrust my printout of driving directions from the hotel website in front of him at a stop light. He glanced at it, then showed me, in cool triumph, that the directions led to number 249, not number 286. Odd, not even, and further down the street. I looked at the directions again. He was right.
    "Barcelona cannot be found on the internet," my driver declaimed. It took a mix of firmness and diplomacy to get him to make the necessary loop to come down Provença from the other side. Ah, there was Gaudi's Pedrera on the corner, an unplanned gift. Yes, there was a number 286. No external evidence that the grand bourgeois building housed a hotel, but a doorman hiding in a booth inside the entrance court allowed himself to be stirred from his esoteric studies to concede that there was, in fact, a hotel on the floor above. He escorted me up marble stairs to one of those cozy European elevators that give you the choice of sending your bags up alone or sacrificing your manhood.
    “Thank you for initiating me into the Barcelona of shadows and mysteries,” I greeted the charming girl at the hotel reception.  “Yes, we did direct you to the wrong building,” she agreed when she looked at my printout. “I don’t know why that happened.”  But I did. I could feel a story building. Entering neo-Gothic Barcelona in a style worthy of Shadow of the Wind, I was primed for adventures, though perhaps not for the battle that I was required to fight on my second night in Barcelona.

This is the missing first page from my Barcelona journal, as posted on this blog. The way in is the way out.


Maria said...

Zafon's books are fantastic! Glad you got to live right inside it. :)

city said...

thanks for share........